Construction waste

The Government's Waste Strategy for England 2007 identifies the good potential to increase resource efficiency in construction and reduce waste. The construction industry is a major source of waste in England, using the highest tonnage of solid material resources in any sector, over 400 million tonnes. The construction, demolition & excavation (CD&E) sector generates more waste in England than any other sector, and is the largest generator of hazardous waste, around 1.7 million tonnes. By comparison, the sector accounts for 9–10% of GDP. Objectives of the waste strategy for the construction sector include:

  • provide the drivers for the sector to improve its economic efficiency by creating less waste from design to demolition
  • treat waste as a resource, re-using and recycling more and asking contractors for greater use of recovered material
  • improve the economics of the re-use and recycling sector by increasing demand and securing investment in the treatment of waste

Improving resource efficiency in the construction industry

Sustainable Construction Strategy

The Strategy for Sustainable Construction is a joint industry and Government initiative intended to promote leadership and behavioural change, as well as delivering benefits to both the construction industry and the wider economy.

Site waste management plans

New Regulations came into force April 2008 making Site waste management plans (SWMP) compulsory for all construction projects in England costing over £300,000. A SWMP records the amount and type of waste produced on a construction site and how it will be reused, recycled or disposed.  

The Regulations aim to:

  • increase the amount of construction waste that is recovered, re-used and recycled and improve materials resource efficiency
  • prevent illegal waste activity by requiring that waste is disposed of appropriately, in accordance with the waste duty of care provisions

The Regulations will not apply to projects planned before 6 April 2008 as long as the construction work begins before 1 July 2008.


Defra supports the development of a voluntary agreement with plasterboard manufacturers to reduce plasterboard waste to landfill from manufacturing operations. WRAP and the Building Research Establishment are working with the remaining elements of the supply chain to agree a sector-level commitment.

Further information
See also

Page last modified: 25 February 2009
Page published: 31 January 2008